Arizona Basketball: Cats Top 5 Games Vs. Duke

Mar 17, 2016; Providence, RI, USA; Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the first half against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks during the first round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Dunkin Donuts Center.Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2016; Providence, RI, USA; Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the first half against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks during the first round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Dunkin Donuts Center.Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Arizona Basketball has given the West Coast something to smile about while playing the Dukies.

It’s been over a month since basketball season ended in the Old Pueblo.

That has given Tucsonans time to catch up on all the things they had been putting off for the previous four months.

More from Zona Zealots

With all the ex-Cats involved in the NBA Playoffs, it makes the days pass a little bit faster, but nothing compares to Tucson’s first love, Arizona Basketball.

To help get us through some of these pre dog-days of summer, we’re going to start a series that focuses on the greatest games Arizona Basketball has played against some of the greatest programs in college basketball history.

We start off the series with a bang.

Today’s school is the five-time National Champion Duke Blue Devils.

Arizona fans have always had a major distaste for the Dukies, even before the controversial 2001 National Championship Game.

For schools that are so far apart geographically, they have met quite often in the past three decades.

The Cats hold a 5-4 all-time record against the Blue Devils but the modern day battles started in 1987. The teams have played eight times since that meeting.

May 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Former college basketball coach Lute Olson smiles before a press conference for Steve Kerr (not pictured) as the new head coach for the Golden State Warriors at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Having two Hall of Fame coaches on the sideline helped this become a fun West Coast/East Coast rivalry in the late 80’s and early 90’s. /

5. #4 Arizona 72  #6 Duke 66  


Sean Miller’s best team at Arizona was put on the national stage when it was matched up against the Dukies in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Mecca, Madison Square Garden.

Arizona’s defense contained diaper dander, Jabari Parker, by holding him to 7 of 21 from the field.

Nick Johnson led Arizona with 15 points.

The Cats big win helped them land the No. 1 spot in the nation two weeks later. They held that spot for eight straight weeks. 

4. #2 Arizona 77  #9Duke 75    


The Cats traveled cross country to East Rutherford, New Jersey for a late season match-up against the Blue Devils.

Arizona rushed out to a 19-point lead in the first half, but the Dukies fought back to tie the game at 70 late in the contest.

Senior Sean Elliott knocked down a three-pointer over All-American Danny Ferry, with 54 seconds left and the Cats held on for a two-point win over the ACC power.

Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports /

Elliott finished with 24 points and ten rebounds.

The win propelled the Cats back into the No. 1 spot in the nation. They held that spot for the final three weeks of the regular season.

3. #1 Arizona 91  #9 Duke 85    


In the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic, Arizona lived up to it’s No. 1 ranking.

The game is most remembered for an in-game classic confrontation between Coach Lute Olson and Coach K.

The shouting match stemmed from an incident that involved Danny Ferry.

The Duke All-American made a comment during the game to Olson suggesting the refs were a bit one sided in an all red McKale Center. The Cats shot 20 more free throws than the Dukies that day.

Sean Elliott had one of his best games of the season by dropping 31 points on Coach K and the Blue Devils. He also added five assists and nine rebounds to his stat sheet.

2. #9 Arizona 103  #7  Duke 96 (2 OT)      


Everybody in McKale Center on that afternoon knew Duke was good, but they had no idea the Blue Devils were about to start a dynasty a little over a month later. 

That’s when at the Final Four, the Dukies took out the hated undefeated UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and won their first National Championship over the blue blood Kansas Jayhawks.

Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cats tied the game late in regulation thanks to a Sean Rooks layup and tied the game yet again near the close of the first overtime thanks to a Chris Mills jumper.

The Cats would prevail in double overtime and their home court winning streak would increase to 61 straight at the friendly confines of McKale Center.

1. No. 5 Seed Arizona 93 vs. No.1 Seed Duke 77    


Some Arizona fans are afraid to go anywhere near Anaheim California since the Cats have lost four straight regional finals where the Mighty Ducks play, but on this night, Arizona fans celebrated long past the fireworks stopped at the Disneyland Resort.

Duke was the defending National Champion and had added Kyrie Irving to the squad to try and win their second straight title.

Derrick Williams and the Cats made sure that did not happen.

Trailing by six at the half, the Cats came out and dominated the second session.

More wildcats: Arizona Basketball: Miller’s Top 5 Non-Conference Wins

Williams finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds.

The two exclamation points of the night came from a monster dunk by Williams and a posterizing dunk over Kyle Singler by Jamelle Horne. BearDown Arizona!